So often I read about Brazilian artists complaining about the lack of new Música Popular Brasileira (MPB, Brazilian Popular Music). Unfortunately the reality in Brazil is not the brightest when it comes to MPB. It seems radio stations continue a tragic love affair with what’s popular, relegating quality MPB to the back of their playlist. Luckily for us, artists like Fernanda Cunha will not cease to present her listeners with first-rate albums. Her sixth solo release, Olhos de Mar, is superlative from start to finish. She proves once again that MPB is alive and well in spite of the mediocre batch of what’s playing on Brazilian radio.
Olhos de Mar was produced by Fernanda herself just this past July 2015. For this new album, she said she wanted to “record a CD featuring previously unreleased songs written by great songwriters that are still making music in Brazil.” She carefully selected a repertoire with 10 songs from songwriters such as 2015 Latin Grammy nominee Antonio Adolfo, Cristóvão Bastos, Carlinhos Vergueiro, Daniel Gonzaga, Filó Machado and others as well as contributing two original lyrics herself for music written by Toronto guitarist and Brazilian music expert Reg Schwager. Another special track featured in the album is one by her mother Telma Costa (who can forget her 1980 rendition of “Eu Te Amo,” with Chico Buarque!). Although Telma Costa passed away in 1989, this track was found in Fernanda’s personal files and recorded here for the first time.
As with her previous works, Fernanda Cunha has a natural ability to turn into gold any song she sings. Her arrangements put the music at the forefront without overdone arrangements. Olhos de Mar features three arrangements each by Cristóvão Bastos and Jorjão Carvalho, with the remaining four tacks evenly split between Reg Schwager and Zé Carlos, with whom she had previously recorded her 2007 Zíngaro CD dedicated to the music of Tom Jobim and Chico Buarque. The base quartet accompanying Fernanda Cunha is Jorjão Carvalho (bass), Cristóvão Bastos (piano, fender Rhodes), Zé Carlos (acoustic guitar) and Edson Ghilardi (drums). In addition to that, Camilla Dias (piano) and Reg Schwager (acoustic and electric guitar) are featured in a couple of tracks.
Jorjão Carvalho’s arrangement for Carlinhos Vergueiro’s “Dando um Tempo” is the opener for the album. The nice samba-canção tempo is a solid starter here, and Cristóvão Bastos’ notes dashing throughout the track are a welcome detail to this fine arrangement. His piano notes are like stars carefully placed in a blue sky. The song lyrics flow peacefully in Fernanda’s voice. This track is an excellent example of what makes MPB music so timeless. It combines haunting melodies with sagacious lyrics. The song is a homage to life. It is everything we have and love. This is one of those tracks one never tires to listen to over and over. The title track is a bluesy ballad showcasing a beautiful introduction with Fernanda’s warm vocal in duet with Cristóvão’s soft piano. The song does flow like calm ocean waves. This attentive care with arrangements and song mood are one of the captivating features of every Fernanda Cunha album. She is an artist who sees the power of lyrics and takes full advantage of them in her performances. For the listener, the result cannot be any more pleasing than what we hear in Olhos de Mar, track after track. That is exactly the case with Daniel Gonzaga’s “Verão,” too Just like his father the late Gonzaguinha followed in the footsteps of Luiz Gonzaga, the King of Baião, here the younger Gonzaga shows that his family’s musical genes did not skip his generation. Another gem of arrangement and performance is heard in Denilson Santos’ “Amor e Nada Mais.” One can almost feel a certain touch of João Donato‘s music here. It’s a very catchy song.
I also want to call attention to the two incursions of Fernanda as a lyricist with the remarkable guitarist Reg Schwager. This is not the first time she’s recorded her own songs (see her 2009 Brasil Canada and the 2012 Coração do Brasil CDs). Here the first collaboration, “Saudade de Você,” is a sad lullaby with voice and acoustic guitar about the emotions we go through upon realizing just how much we miss a friend or lover. The other song they wrote together is the closer of the album, “Pode Ser Que Eu Fique Dessa Vez.” It is a more upbeat track both in rhythm and message. Anyone who has ever traveled outside of Brazil will certainly identify with these lyrics.
In the liner notes, Fernanda talks about taking a “leap in this repertoire searching for new horizons.” I applaud her standards and constant search for new horizons in her music. She has clearly not strayed from the path that brings us excellent albums such as Olhos de Mar and her previous releases. Let there be more Fernanda Cunha in MPB. This is a brilliant album and MPB at its best!
Olhos de Mar
- Dando um Tempo (Carlinhos Vergueiro)
- Olhos De Mar (Cristóvão Bastos – Nelson Wellington)
- Amor e Nada Mais (Denilson Santos)
- Floresta Azul (Antonio Adolfo – Zé Jorge)
- Manhã Mineira (Filó Machado – Judith de Souza)
- Naquele Outono (Telma Costa – Tite de Lemos)
- Saudade De Você (Reg Schwager – Fernanda Cunha)
- Verão (Daniel Gonzaga)
- Misteriosa (Carlinhos Vergueiro)
- Pode Ser Que Eu Fique Dessa Vez (Reg Schwager – Fernanda Cunha)